Yale Daily News

John Hueston LAW ’91 and his law firm, Hueston Hennigan LLP, have launched a new foundation that will allow graduates of the Yale Law School to pursue social justice work while learning from top trial lawyers.

Announced on Jan. 28 with a $10 million pledge from Hueston Hennigan, the Social Justice Legal Foundation seeks to mentor the next generation of leading trial lawyers in the public sector through its two-year fellowship program. The fellowship brings together five recent law school graduates — with YLS, Columbia Law School, Stanford Law School, Northwestern Pritzker School of Law and the University of California, Los Angeles School of Law each sending one fellow — to try cases addressing key social justice issues and receive mentorship from Hueston Hennigan’s attorneys in trial and appellate advocacy. Each fellow will receive $70,000 per year, plus other benefits including relocation expenses and bar exam reimbursement.

“Our fellow program is the only one we know of that really focuses on the development of trial skills in the public interest area of social justice,” Hueston told the News. “Our trial lawyers — myself and others, who have done in excess of 100 trials — will work shoulder to shoulder with these fellows to develop them quickly and effectively into trial lawyers in the public interest sector, and that focus is unique.”

Hueston said that the foundation brings a unique collaboration between private sector resources and the “academic prowess” brought by the five law schools to be able to identify and pursue social justice cases. 

The foundation will collaborate with other social justice organizations and bar associations in an effort to take some of the “most difficult and important” cases to trial, according to Hueston Hennigan’s press release announcing the foundation. 

“I think that [Yale Law School Dean] Heather Gerken has done a wonderful job of increasingly orienting Yale Law School into effective and groundbreaking clinical work,” Hueston said. “This fellowship collaboration and work with Yale Law School is in the same spirit of her work today.”

Hueston explained that the idea for the foundation arose after the killing of George Floyd last May. He said that the foundation primarily seeks to identify and pursue high-impact social justice cases across the United States in the mode of former Supreme Court Justice Thurgood Marshall.

The foundation plans to rotate its primary areas of attention every two years between seven key areas: economic justice, housing and homelessness discrmination, LGBTQ+ rights, immigrant justice, Native American discrimination, voting rights and criminal justice reform. 

“We are grateful to Hueston Hennigan for providing an opportunity for our graduates to pursue important social justice work,” Gerken told YLS Today. “And we are proud that our graduate, John Hueston, is leading the charge.”

The fellowship welcomes applications from graduates who are committed to a long-term public interest practice, as well as those who may want to enter the private sector. The fellowship website says that fellows will be supported in whatever path they choose to take after their two-year term. 

Hueston explained that the foundation’s advisory board — made up of prominent legal professionals such as former California Supreme Court Justice Carlos Moreno ’70 and Executive Director of the Western Center on Law and Poverty Crystal Crawford — will help select the cases that the fellows will take on. 

“We look forward to partnering with the Foundation on impactful work to advance economic dignity, housing, health, and basic needs for low-income Californians,” Crawford said in Hueston Hennigan’s press release. 

Seventeen percent of the YLS class of 2019 entered the public interest sector after graduation, according to the school’s latest employment report. 

Julia Brown | julia.k.brown@yale.edu 

Julia Brown served as University Editor on the Managing Board of 2023. Previously, she covered the University's graduate and professional schools as a staff reporter. She graduated cum laude from Yale University with a B.A. in Economics & Mathematics.